Tigers 9 Blue Jays 0
TORONTO — Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander faced the minimum 27 batters on Saturday, but an eighth-inning walk cost him the perfect game.
Instead, he pitched the second no-hitter of his career in a 9-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday at Rogers Centre.
Verlander was mobbed by his teammates after striking out Rajai Davis to end the game.
“I felt fantastic,” Verlander said. “Obviously I was extremely excited but being able to recall the last one and go through it, it was really able to calm me down. I was able to calm myself down a lot more because having thrown another one.”
Verlander (3-3) pitched a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 12, 2007 at Comerica Park.
It was the seventh no-hitter by a Tiger pitcher. The only other Tiger with two-hitters is Virgil Trucks who pitched both his in 1952.
On Saturday Verlander had a perfect game going into the eighth inning, but walked J.P. Arencibia with one out in the inning.
“That was as good as it gets,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He just missed being perfect by inches. It was a ball obviously. Justin was just eyelashes away from being perfect.
“That was just great stuff. He was totally in control from the start. He was almost perfect.”
Verlander’s performance comes less than a week after Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. But in that game, Liriano walked six.
Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila hit home runs for Detroit (16-18), as Toronto (15-18) left-hander Ricky Romero (2-4) took the loss.
After Mike McCoy lined out to centre for the first out of the eighth inning, Arencibia battled Verlander through 12 pitches to work a walk and end the perfect game.
But Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a double play to end the eighth inning and Verlander still had faced the minimum 24 batters on 98 pitches.
He finished the game with 108 pitches, 74 of them strikes and said he did not have his best curveball. But his slider was excellent and his changeup better than it has been and his fastball was vibrant, reaching 101 miles per hour late in the game.
“He was unbelievable today,” Arencibia said. “Anytime when your 106th pitch is hitting 100 — I would say that’s pretty ridiculous stuff.“
Verlander praised Arencibia’s at-bat that cost him the perfect game.
“Amazing at-bat, especially for a young guy,” Verlander said. “He laid off some good pitches, he fouled off some good pitches. I can’t say enough about the way he battled that at-bat. You’ve got to tip your cap some time.”
“I was able to foul off a couple of them,” said Arencibia. “I felt I was seeing it pretty good and he threw that one off the plate away and it was a thing where it was just a crazy at bat. It’s tough for him to give it up that way but the obviously deserves all the credit today.”
Verlander had no argument with the call by plate umpire Jerry Meals.
“It was a ball and that was my thought,” Verlander said. “I sometimes get pretty emotional out there on the mound especially if I think a ball is close or what not and I can’t help it, it’s just my nature but that one right out of my finger tips I knew it was just a hair outside and it was.”
David Cooper popped out to second to open the ninth, John McDonald grounded out to second and Davis, who lined out in his previous at-bat, fouled off a 1-2 pitch before working the count to 2-2. He then struck out to complete the no-hitter.
Verlander remained perfect after five innings on a call at first base that had Blue Jays’ manager John Farrell out of the dugout to talk to the umpire.
It came on Encarnacion’s sharply hit ball that bounced off Verlander’s right arm. He made the throw to first baseman Miguel Cabrera who was able to make the catch against his body and Encarnacion was called out on a close play to end the inning.
Verlander said there was some swelling on the arm where the ball hit. Trainers used a cold beverage can to keep it under control. There was no ice used at that stage.
“I was up in here with the trainers I was kind of like a boxer you see between rounds,” Verlander said. “I’ve got a pretty decent little lump there. But thankfully they did a great job, they got the swelling down and allowed me to continue going out there.”
With two out in the seventh, Verlander had his first three-ball count of the game when he went to 3-1 on Juan Rivera. The outfielder fouled off two pitches before grounding back to the pitcher to keep the perfect game alive.
At this point shadows were over home plate with the roof open for the first time this season at Rogers Centre.
Romero, whose start was delayed two days because of a strained left oblique, lasted 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. He gave up six runs and two of the five Tiger hits against him were home runs.
Peralta hit his second homer of the season with one out in the fourth. A double by Ryan Raburn and Avila’s sixth homer of the season ended Romero’s day.
The Tigers scored again in the fifth. Carlos Villanueva walked Miguel Cabrera who took second on a wild pitch and scored on Victor Martinez’s single.
Romero’s regular turn was Thursday, but he was held out of that start because a slight strain of the left oblique muscle that cropped up after his win against the Yankees on April 29.
There was an off-day in the schedule on Monday, so it was easy enough to pitch Kyle Drabek in Romero’s spot on Thursday and follow up with Jesse Litsch on Friday on their regular four days rest.
Romero said any discomfort was gone with the extra two days he was given between starts and he was ready to go Saturday.
“Just a dominating performance against us,” Farrell said of Verlander. “The number of quick outs early in the game allowed him to keep the pitch count well in check and he seemed to only gain strength as the game went on.”